There will likely come tougher tests in the career of Lenier Pero.
For now, he can take comfort in knowing he survived a potentially disastrous situation this early into his career.
The unbeaten Cuban export overcame a rough end to the third round and a deficit on two of the three scorecards in his eighth-round stoppage of Ukraine’s Victor Faust. Pero was ahead 68-65 on one card and trailed by scores of 67-66 and 68-65 through seven rounds before a body shot forced Faust to retreat, with an ensuing volley forcing the stoppage at 2:28 into round eight of their Showtime opener Saturday evening at Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
“Lenier Pero showed why he is one of the top heavyweight contenders in the world today,” Shane Shapiro, Pero’s promoter told BoxingScene.com. “He battled through adversity and showed the true will to win. I believe that he is ready for anyone in the top five right now.”
Pero (9-0, 6KOs) was coming off a productive three-win 2022 campaign.
His year began with a career-deepest eight-round, unanimous decision over fellow unbeaten Cuban prospect Geovany Bruzon last New Year’s Day in Hollywood, Florida, followed by a pair of early knockouts also in the South Florida region. The 2016 Olympic quarterfinalist for Cuba—who now lives in Miami—stepped up in class for his Showtime-televised debut on Saturday, enjoying a solid start before falling behind after getting rocked by a hook by Faust (11-1, 7KOs) late in round three.
Pero dramatically turned things around late in round eight, when a right hook to the body forced Faust to wince in pain. The visiting Ukrainian turned away in pain, to which Pero wisely jumped on his wounded foe before referee Rafael Ramos halted the contest.
“Victor Faust was a difficult opponent, but I have been training hard for this fight, and spent countless hours in the gym and in the mountains envisioning this type of result,” Pero told Boxing Scene. “With the team I have behind me, I know that PBC will put me in the best position to become the first Cuban heavyweight world champion.”
There is definitely work to be done, though Pero’s career is in very capable hands.
The lead voice in the corner is Bob Santos, who was a finalist in the 2022 Trainer of the Year race as recognized by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). Pero is also proudly represented by adviser Al Haymon and his Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) conglomerate.
“Bob Santos has done a tremendous job building Lenier into the fighter he is today,” noted Shapiro. “I can see his confidence growing with each fight. Having PBC and Al Haymon guiding the way, I do not think a world title is too far away for this talented Cuban.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox